Before Triumph Studios’ Overlord made evil fashionably fun in 2007, there were a few stabs at dancing on the dark side with games such as Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper in 1997 or the tale of Werdna with Wizardry IV in 1987. In the UK, however, Werdna’s evil wasn’t alone. An isometric action game called Warlock from The Edge promised to fulfill a few evil desires with a bit of cheeky humor on the side.
Warlock’s an isometric action game which casts the player as, well, the Warlock whose castle has been taken over by an appropriately named good guy called “The White Wizard”. As the former “Doomlord” of the world at large plotting his return to Doomrock, it’s up to the player to find a way through his former home and find that Orb of Power stashed away…somewhere…within. You can’t be expected to remember everything, do you? You have servants for that. Or had.
The good news is that you have a few advantages. As a Warlock, you can shoot magic balls that dispatch the living (and unliving) from do-gooder warriors to princesses whose goodness is deadly at close range. It can even kill scary ghoulish critters that have somehow been turned against you. There are also huge magic potion bottles that can transform you into a goblin or a troll.
As a goblin, your magic can freeze enemies with a second shot taking them out, though it’s not exactly a one-shot killing move as it is with the Warlock. And as a troll, you can leap over obstacles like blocks and just run into enemies to kill them…kind of like how the goblin also can, but with the added bonus of being a bit more sturdy.
Treasures like chests and crowns are also scattered around to help your score and there’s food, too, to bring up your “might” level which represents your health. Important stuff, that health thing.
As an action game, it sort of works. For one thing, lining up exactly to pass through doorways can get trying after awhile, creating subtle strategies such as pushing yourself against another wall just so you can line up the pixels to head into the door you know is on the opposite wall. Scoring is almost too easy. Spawn points generate endless foes to get in your way and your magic doesn’t really drain off (though there are objects that can do that for you making exploration a bit tricky), so if you wanted to camp a level out from a good spot, you could rack up the points with a bit of patience.
Portals, represented by pentagrams on the floor, take you up a floor while doors need keys (and lock themselves, though you can come back through the side that doesn’t show the actual door) and trapdoors take you down one level. Though the Orb is easily found in your first playthrough, subsequent games put the Orb deeper in the castle, challenging the player to do better.
According to the ad above, Warlock was ported to the Commodore 64, the Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST — all arguably hot platforms at the time in the UK.
Today, Warlock’s one of many forgotten titles from the past, but you can find it floating out there on the ‘net and can run it through an emulator of your choice with a little digging. Warlock didn’t set the dungeon crawling world on fire though had a clever idea or two from being able to transform yourself into different characters with their own strengths and weaknesses and playing as an “evil” (though of a more humorous bent) protagonist. An isometric slice from the the UK scene in the 80s and a distant cousin to Overlord’s own cheeky humor showing that not everyone needed to be a goody two-shoes with amnesia and a destiny to have fun in a fantasy showdown.